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Time for a recount?

Alistair Burnett Alistair Burnett | 21:31 UK time, Monday, 23 April 2007

Does the audience care about the Nigerian election? Have we done too much on the French election - it was a first round after all and we won't know who the new president of France will be for another fortnight?

The World TonightTwo questions I have been asked over the past couple of days.

Last Friday on The World Tonight (listen here) we devoted a whole programme to the two elections. Robin Lustig was in Abuja, Jackie Hardgrave in Paris, and the programme was presented out of the two capitals with no input from London. It was technically ambitious as neither were in studios. Jackie was in a restaurant in Paris and Robin was on a hotel roof in Abuja. But did the stories merit the airtime and resources we devoted to them?

The French election is easier to answer. France is our next door neighbour and there are two quite different visions of the future on offer. It's also a campaign that was quite unpredictable up to the last minute. Added to which, whoever leads France will have a significant impact on the future of the European Union and that has an impact on people's lives at home.

The Nigerian election was more predictable because the candidate of the governing party was expected to win, so the election result itself was less interesting for being more predictable. The reason we sent Robin Lustig there was to report on the state of Africa's most populous and arguably most wealthy and powerful country, so we used the election as an opportunity to do this - it gave us, in journalists' jargon, 'a peg' to do the story.

One of the main things Robin did was to report from the northern city of Kano, which has a mixed Muslim/Christian population and is a good place to illustrate the issues facing the country in terms of potential wealth, everyday poverty and corruption.

If elections equal democracy (which not everyone accepts they do) and Nigeria held an election (however flawed according to observers) and manages to pass power from one elected president to another for the first time in the country's history (punctuated as it is by military rule), this is an important moment for the future of Nigeria and by extension Africa, which the British taxpayer via the government is committed to supporting with substantial debt relief and aid.

I hope our audience are finding it interesting and worth the time we devoted to it. If you would like to hear more, Robin has also been presenting for BBC World Service while he's there, and was also on the Today programme on Saturday (listen here).


  • 1.
  • At 10:39 PM on 23 Apr 2007,
  • William Frost wrote:

I do not usually watch or listen to the BBC (I can find it here in the USA, but not all of the time.) However, as an avid user of your website, let me assure you that I am as interested in African politics are European. Please, keep up the stories on Nigeria, etc.

  • 2.
  • At 10:59 PM on 23 Apr 2007,
  • JG wrote:

Strange isn't it that in your coverage of the French election you manage to attack both candidates from the left!

"Both are controversial figures who have divided the French.

Mr Sarkozy is hated by the left as a reformer who many fear would change the French way of life by making the nation work harder and longer and by cutting back on its generous welfare state.

Ms Royal is also regarded with suspicion, seen as too authoritarian and conservative by some Socialists."

Do not the views of the right not matter? Or is it just the views of fellow lefties like those at the BBC that count?

hat tip Praguetory

Does this mean that any emails I receive from high ranking Nigerian government officials are going to have different names from now on?

Robin's interview with the outgoing Obasanjo last night was one of the best I've heard ever.

Always nice to hear leaders noticeably riled by innocent sounding questions such as what will your legacy be?

  • 5.
  • At 05:06 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Peter Galbavy wrote:

We know the Nigerian election will be/was corrupted and people threatened, lives lost. This is nothing new. Perhaps the only suprise should be that the corruption is far more open than that in our own so-called "civilised" countries. Perhaps democracy in the self-styled first world is simply better at hiding the corruption.

What corruption ? Oh, let's see. Do we remember hanging chads in Florida, peerages for loans in the UK, postal ballot fraud seemingly supported by local parties around Birmingham. The Nigerians just need to learn how to hide this stuff under the radar better.

  • 6.
  • At 06:46 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Adam wrote:

I certainly wouldn't accuse you of doing too much on the French election. If anything, too little. As you say, France is our next door neighbour, and it genuinely matters to us who they choose as president.

What I would have liked to have heard more about was the extraordinarily high turnout. Sure, it was mentioned, but some thorough, in depth stories about why it was so much higher than turnouts in our elections would have been fascinating.

We've long been able to learn a lot about food from the French, and it now seems that they may also have plenty to teach us about democracy.

  • 7.
  • At 09:22 PM on 24 Apr 2007,
  • Jim-UK wrote:

I thought the coverage of the Nigerian elections was fine, however the coverage of the French election has been over the top and looks a bit like an excuse for a holiday for your people.

Cutting into news items to bring speeches by the like of George Bush is what I find infuriating, please finish one thing before moving onto another. The chances of him saying anything we've not heard before are slim to none.

  • 8.
  • At 02:49 AM on 26 Apr 2007,
  • Barbara Coker wrote:

I am concerned that the issue of the Nigerian election has drawn so few comments: it reflects the lack of serious interest generally across UK, in African affairs. Robin Lustig's Report is very good. Africa has become the new China - hidden, not much discussed, yet seething with humanity across a vast landmass that together has so many major, major, issues. When, for example, will British media turn up the heat on governments here and elsewhere, to challenge the terrible crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe?

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